Who Is Responsible for the Plastic Pollution Problem?

who is responsible

Humans have a tendency to shift blame. We don’t like to admit when we’re part of the problem, and instead, we push the responsibility elsewhere. However, this type of attitude is beneficial to no one. When no one takes responsibility, then no one makes an effort to rectify the wrong.

This is certainly the case when it comes to environmentalism and plastic pollution. Some of the biggest debates surrounding the issue revolve around which parties are to blame and who needs to make changes in order to solve the issue. 

But, the answer isn’t so simple. Nearly everyone has a role to play when it comes to plastic pollution, but their roles manifest in different ways. Because of this, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to plastic pollution. 

When it comes down to it, there are three main groups that are considered most responsible for plastic pollution: individuals, governments, and producers. But, how responsible are these groups for plastic pollution, and what can they do in order to reduce plastic pollution? Let’s explore.

plastic pollution, Who Is Responsible for the Plastic Pollution Problem?

There are countless marketing campaigns encouraging individuals to take care of their own plastic waste. Consumers are constantly told that their actions can make an impact when it comes to climate change and that they must be aware of their plastic consumption if the world is going to change.

While this may be partially true—we should all do our part in order to reduce pollution and slow climate change—these types of campaigns are misleading. In fact, individuals are only responsible for a miniscule amount of plastic pollution. One person only produces around 0.1kg – 0.4kg per day. In comparison, the packaging industry alone produced around 141 million tons of plastic in 2015. 

Part of the reason why individuals feel responsible for plastic pollution is because big companies have designed it that way. For example, Keep America Beautiful, a large American non-profit, has run multiple campaigns regarding responsible waste management. While this isn’t an inherently bad idea, the campaigns were also backed by some of the biggest plastic pollution producers in the world, like Coca-Cola. This illustrates how blame is being shifted to the group—individuals—who have the least impact when it comes to plastic pollution.

Extended producer responsibility

plastic pollution, Who Is Responsible for the Plastic Pollution Problem?

As companies place the responsibility of plastic waste management on their consumers, we must look to the source of the plastic waste itself: the producers.

Extended producer responsibility puts the responsibility of waste, like plastic waste, in the hands of the producers. Under EPR policies, companies and manufacturers face fines or increased fees for plastic usage, encouraging them to reduce their plastic use and production. The producers are also responsible for the treatment and disposal of post-consumer materials, like plastic. This provides incentive to the producers to create products that make use of sustainable materials so that the waste from the products can be managed in a responsible way.

Logically, it makes sense. Any viable solution needs to go to the source. In this case, it’s the producers making the products that create the problem. If less plastic is being produced, then less plastic will end up as mismanaged waste.

EPR isn’t a policy approach that’s far into the future. In fact, the EU, UK, and certain states in the US are already implementing EPR strategies. Because of this, it would behoove companies to start to address their plastic waste and production now in order to anticipate this regulatory trend. 

So, who exactly is responsible for plastic pollution?

plastic collection

While individuals and governments do have a role to play when it comes to plastic pollution—individuals should dispose of their plastic waste properly, and governments must provide regulations to guide producers and individuals toward more sustainable choices—ultimately, plastic pollution is the fault of the producers. When less plastic is produced, then less plastic ends up in the environment.

If we have any hope of reducing plastic pollution, then it’s the companies and corporations that will need to step up and take responsibility. Plastic clean-up efforts won’t make any difference if more and more plastic waste is produced each year. This will take a great undertaking by businesses all over the world, and massive overhauls will need to happen. But, it all starts with a first step: pledging to reduce your company’s plastic waste in order to create a cleaner world for all.

How TONTOTON can help your company reduce its plastic waste


No matter how big your company is, its plastic waste production matters. While you determine a way to minimize, and hopefully eliminate, the plastic waste in your business, purchasing plastic credits through TONTOTON can help you neutralize the plastic waste that you produce now.

It works like this: you purchase plastic credits equalling the amount of plastic credit that your company produces, and we remove an equivalent amount of plastic waste from the environment. It’s as easy as that.

But our projects go beyond simple clean-up. We work with community members to provide training, personal protective equipment, and access to healthcare. Additionally, we focus on a previously ignored type of plastic, non-recyclable plastic, monetizing it so that waste pickers and other community members can enjoy an additional source of income. Finally, we give the plastic waste that our waste pickers collect to cement factories where it is co-processed, ending in a zero-waste management system. It’s a win for everyone.

Start taking responsibility for your plastic waste today by purchasing plastic credits through TONTOTON and become part of the plastic waste solution.